Pakistan and India were making plans yesterday to let earthquake victims cross the Line of Control in Kashmir, bringing the nuclear-armed rivals closer in the wake of a shared tragedy that killed nearly 80,000 people on both sides of the heavily militarized frontier.
Pakistan on Saturday proposed creating five border crossing points for Kashmiris to freely carry relief goods to either side. India earlier offered to open aid camps for quake victims in India-controlled Kashmir.
"It appears to us that the proposals made by Pakistan can be reconciled with those that we ourselves had already made," Indian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Navtej Sarna said in a statement in New Delhi.
Any agreement to let Kashmiris cross the frontier long regarded as one of world's most dangerous flashpoints would be a clear sign of mounting trust between the longtime rivals who began a peace process nearly two years ago to bury five decades of hostility.
The magnitude 7.6 October 8 quake is believed to have killed at least 79,000 people, mostly in Pakistan-controlled portion of Kashmir. About 1,360 died on the Indian side. More than 3 million are homeless.
India's proposal came in apparent response to Pakistan President General Pervez Musharraf's repeated calls for Kashmiris to be allowed to cross the Line of Control to help each other recover from the disaster.
TV campaign raises US$32m
A Saudi television appeal has raised 121 million riyals (US$32 million) to help survivors of Pakistan's devastating earthquake, the official Saudi Press Agency said yesterday.
King Abdullah gave 10 million riyals (US$2.65 million) and Crown Prince Sultan gave 5 million (US$1.33 million) to Saturday's appeal. Donations to the state-organized campaign may continue for another week.
Earlier this month Abdullah said Saudi Arabia was sending 500 million riyals (US$132 million) to help aid and reconstruction.
Saudi charities are prevented from transferring money abroad under measures introduced after September 11, 2001, aimed at preventing the donations being diverted to militants.
Aid efforts gaining momentum
International efforts to help up to three million survivors of Pakistan's devastating earthquake are gathering momentum, but time is short and much more is needed, aid officials said yesterday.
"It is very high risk that this population is in," UN Coordinator Rashid Khalikov told reporters, estimating rescuers had only five or six weeks to get people under shelter before the harsh Himalayan winter sets in.
Helicopters needed to reach otherwise inaccessible mountain villages cut off by landslides were arriving -- three British Chinook heavy transporters the latest -- and more were due.
"Today we provided two more heavy-lift helicopters that can come over from Afghanistan," General John Abizaid, head of the US Central Command, said after flying over the disaster area. "We've got about 13 more that are over there that are coming forward. We will eventually get about 25 more over here," he said.
(China Daily October 24, 2005)